Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and U.S. Sen. George Allen yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the state’s abolition of parole, says the Washington Post. The two Republicans said it has resulted in longer prison terms for violent felons, more certainty in sentencing, and lower crime rates. Activists who fought parole abolition said it continues to devastate inmates and their families, and they questioned its impact on crime rates.
As governor, Allen signed the legislation into law after championing it as the centerpiece of a get-tough-on-crime campaign. Allen crisscrossed the state, telling stories of brutal crimes committed by felons who had been released from prison years early. Allen and Kilgore said violent crime has dropped 26 percent since 1994. First-degree murderers with violent records were serving about 15 years on average in 1994; now, they serve on average 46 years. Allen said the need for new prisons has not been so great as some predicted in 1994. “We overcame the misplaced objections of the criminal apologists,” Allen said. Jean Auldridge of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, said lack of parole is keeping thousands of nonviolent inmates in prisons too long and that the state has done little to help ease reentry into society. “Parole protects our citizens because [inmates] come out with someone to call if they need something,” she said. “The missing link is reentry. What is going to happen to these people?”